Thursday, January 7, 2010

Kindle for the new year

So I have been torn between Kindle resistance and Kindle curiosity for a while now, and I decided to have it both ways by buying one for Matt for Christmas. (He rides the Bart to Berkeley almost every day, and can use the device to read PDF's rather than having to carry a ridiculously heavy bag on his commute). Partly I'm a luddite (albeit an online writing teacher who would be out of work without the internet) and like many others I still love the feeling of a book in hand, cover art, reading in the bath, and most especially browsing at bookstores. Also, one of my job perks is that I get a lot of the books I want to read for free. But there is something alluring about click-and-buy bookshopping too, reading a review of a book that sounds good and being able to start it within minutes--and for a third the cost of the hardback. Which is what I just did two nights ago, purchasing Joanna Grodstein's A Friend of the Family upon the recommendation of my friend Nick, with whom fifty percent of our conversations center around what we've been reading lately. I'm now a quarter of the way into it, and I still can't decide if I'm getting the same experience reading on the Kindle that I would in a "real" book. While a bar at the bottom of the screen tells you what percent of the book you've read (26%, to be exact) it's weird not being able to flip the pages to the end of a chapter, to know exactly how much more you'll be reading before turning off the lights for bed. I also find the way that one page vanishes and the print of the next appears in its place to be disconcerting. Still, I am aware that I am late on this Kindle bandwagon, and lots of other people have clearly gotten used to reading in this new form, and so should I probably. I have this strong suspicion that with the actual paper and ink novel that I have coming out in March might be my last paper and ink novel, that by the time I have another one finished and ready (knock on...wood? Screen?) books as we know them might be books as we knew them. But I can't help but feel that the ephemeral nature of the digital novel rather than the printed novel is going to translate less literally to the reader's experience, that I will not remember this book as vividly and viscerally as I would have if I'd been flipping actual pages.

5 comments:

Michelle Richmond said...

Hi Malena. Like you, I'm resisting the urge to buy a Kindle. The weird thing is, I kind of want one, but, as of yet, there seems to be no place for the independent bookseller in the ebook world. And like you, I worry that I may not have time to publish many print books before traditional publishing is entirely a thing of the past. I must get cracking!

Is your publisher withholding the ebook publication of If You Follow Me until the hardcover has been out for a while?

I

Lauren said...

I got one for christmas too. Im in a weird in between stage where I have books that I haven't read but I also want to play with the kindle but then feel guilty about buying new ebooks and neglecting my book books. I feel like the kindle will be great for planes, vacation, commutes, and future college students. But I like books in bed.

Malena Watrous said...

Yes, books in bed are great. I am halfway into my first Kindle book now, but I am still hung up on not being able to see how deep into a chapter I am, when the next white space is coming, etc... It's creating this weird feeling like the scenes are dragging on, which I don't actually think that they are. Michelle, I think my Kindle edition is coming out right when the book does, but it's a paperback imprint so they don't have the pressure to try and sell hardbacks first. I do think I could and probably will get used to reading on Kindle, but I feel like I imagine people must have felt when they were first using the telephone. Like: "I know that's you on the other end of the line, but this device feels a little cold and impersonal."

Nick said...

The other clear problem with Kindle (I'm guessing; I don't have one) is that you apparently can't see the book cover or author's name once you're 26% of the way through. It's Lauren Grodstein, not Joanna. But what are you thinking? Of the book, that is.

I'm still not sure I'll ever do Kindle, but I live in a city that allows for a bigger apartment and thus more room for more books!

Malena Watrous said...

I don't know why I said "Joanna." Got to fix that. I posted my little microreview on Goodreads. My this is all very circular. I definitely don't think that reading a book on Kindle is as rich of an experience as reading it while turning pages. I think it would be hard to read a book that was dense and languagey--Proust, say--in Kindle edition. Our already truncated attention spans are going to get even more Twitter-sized.